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When mental health is discussed, the subject of accountability is never far behind. It seems like everyone has a different idea of what healthy accountability looks like. Some people think good accountability is never taking your eyes off of someone, or being in an accountability relationship means being equally responsible for someone else’s well-being.
Unfortunately, these views can set us up for failure because we start to view their setbacks as a personal failure.
The foundation for every good accountability relationship is honesty and understanding.
The end goal is empowerment, not perfection. It’s not so much about reaching the destination quickly as it is about making sure the car is in good working order.
In that sense, the biggest mistake we can make is believing every relapse brings us back to square one.
From the outset, there should be an understanding in the relationship that both parties are solely responsible for their own well-being. It is also crucial that they both view the struggle in the same way, so they can respond appropriately when “outbreaks” occur. If you caught the flu, your friend wouldn’t ask “Why did you do that?” or “Why are you so miserable? You have so much in your life to be thankful for!” If they did, you would probably infer your friend grossly misunderstood the nature of the flu.
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The same misunderstanding happens with mental health all of the time.
Accountability is not about finding a cure, it’s about finding freedom and addressing symptoms in a positive, therapeutic way.
My wife keeps me accountable with my depression, but she understands that getting down and withdrawn for no reason is symptomatic of my illness. If my wife made me feel guilty (“You have no reason to feel this way. Don’t you know I care about you?”) or blamed herself (“What can I do to prevent this from happening again?”) every time I told her I was depressed, the last thing I would want to do when I felt those symptoms coming on would be to tell my wife.
Instead, she might suggest that we go for a walk together or meet some friends to take my mind off of things. She is caring without being overbearing, and she knows some days are more difficult than others.
This kind of response fosters honesty in the relationship.
Knowing that feeling depressed is not something I should feel guilty about or will be reprimanded for has given me the freedom to be open about it and to recognize its a place as unique lens through which I see and understand the world.
Our struggles and their symptoms only hold power over us when we keep them secret. When we separate them from our identity by refusing to share our struggle with others or by denying their existence, we fool ourselves into becoming their slave. We turn a perfectly reasonable undertaking and turn it into an endless battle of insurmountable odds.
When we start viewing accountability as tool to help us manage our symptoms, and stop viewing the management of symptoms as an admission of defeat, we start to discover how our illness can actually be an asset.
My wife’s constant encouragement reminds me that my struggle with depression helps me love and empathize with people whom others overlook. It is a tool that helps foster deep, long-lasting relationships with people I have next to nothing in common with.
Wether or not you have been diagnosed with clinical depression, everyone knows what it is like to feel small, forgotten, and empty.
Living with depression has has made me more sensitive to those who feel lost and lonely.
It has given me the insight to know what words to say so those who are hurting, and, on occasion, the knowledge to encourage them to ask for the help they need–something I am truly thankful for.
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The opinions and information shared in this article may not represent that of Libero Network Society. We hold no liability for any harm that may incur from reading content on our site. Please always consult your own medical professionals before making any changes to your medication, activities, or recovery process.